“Christianity is the cancer of humankind.”
These jarring words came at me from a friend. He’s a friend who has been let down by life; he has a terminal illness (duchenne muscular dystrophy) and has been hospital-bound for 22 years and surrounded by ‘support’ who really just play emotional head games with him and beat him down as much as possible; he has no real immediate family and little support from his extended family (though they live close by)….and all he knows of God and Christianity seems to be every negative fact about Catholicism, any news stories of the Westboro Baptist church (you know who I’m talking about – that church that crashes the funerals of fallen soldiers and has a website called godhatesfags.com), and a healthy dose of polygamy thrown in. Given that, I can’t exactly blame the guy for not having a very positive view of Christians.
I could make the argument, I suppose, that the whole reason he and I are friends is because I am a Christian. I volunteered with a muscular dystrophy charity and meant a woman whose son had passed away a few months earlier. In reaching out to her, I realized she in turn was reaching out to anyone and everyone who had this disease and made it to adulthood – a milestone her own son had never reached. She was on the phone with this particular man and handed the phone to me – we lived relatively close to each other. I talked to him for about 2 minutes, and the next day did the obligatory Facebook friending. Seeing his profile on facebook, I realized it was his birthday and nobody had visited, celebrated, or (worst of all, in my opinion) brought cake. This is a cardinal sin in my book. Ignore a person all you want; do not deprive them of their birthday cake (I have excellent birthday priorities).
So, I made a cake. I got together a birthday dinner, and without ever having met this gentleman in person, went to visit him in the hospital where he lived, and threw him a party. I proceeded to visit him every week after that, and learned his medical care and emergency procedures so that he could leave the hospital with me and we could go to a Red Sox. It was the first time he’d been out with a friend in 20 years. He enjoyed himself during those visits, so much so that he started referring to me as his best friend. His friend. Suddenly, he’s forgotten all of that and decided that I’m cancerous.
Am I offended? No. Honestly. I am sad though. I mean, it takes a lot of pain and anger to negate birthday cake. Especially chocolate cake!!! Pain, anger, hate, sadness, and more….I wouldn’t wish that mindset on anybody. So, rather than defend my pride to you (which I’m not supposed to have anyway), let’s back up a bit. Why did I do all that for him? Not because I’m nice or special (if you’ve been reading this blog at all you know I am not that nice at all), but because Jesus wanted to bless this man. Jesus knew he needed a friend. I didn’t think of it like that exactly – my walk with God was a little bit different back then – but even so, I still believed that it is my calling to love people unconditionally, and to give to them and bless them as much as I can. I didn’t use that time or those visits as a stepping stone to proclaim the name of Jesus. Maybe I should have. It didn’t occur to me, honestly. Like I said, my walk was different then.
Still, today I am sure there is a testimony in there somewhere. I did good things for this person, and there is no good in me apart from Jesus Christ. When you tap into it, your ‘good’ can be extraordinary.
However, those aren’t the words that my friend needs to hear right now. He hears all these stories about God’s word twisted into something ugly, and then his Christian friends argue that that’s a false portrayal and Jesus isn’t really like that – that’s great (and true) but it still doesn’t say who Jesus IS. And how can you tell someone who has been so defeated by life that there is a love out there of that magnitude, and that it’s focused on him? To him, hearing that sounds like a crock.
My heart breaks for him and his hatred of God and his emotional pain. I pray for him regularly. I wish I could help him tap into God’s love, even to get just a glimpse of that peace. Then I realize: I can. I can’t exactly tell him “Jesus is great, give Him a chance and pray to Him sometime”. Actually, I’ve tried that, and I’ve had friends try it too; all it does is shove more religion down his throat that he doesn’t want, and then he shuts down and says he doesn’t want to waste his time. Clearly, his heart is not going to be won by reason or logic or argument, or any words at all.
Yes, we are supposed to boldly proclaim Jesus to the world. It’s one of our callings as Christians. But a bold proclamation doesn’t always mean a verbal one. After all, how do you describe light to the darkness? It’s a totally foreign concept – like explaining colors to a person who is blind. Reason, logic, these are things formed around what he knows, and what he knows is spiritual darkness. But what I can do is love him. I can be God’s vessel. God is love, and forgiveness, and peace – unconditional, unending amounts of them. Not because a person deserves them, but because he exists. He was made by God, so he has an inherent value. It is that simple.
I will continue to pray for him and that God would open his heart – maybe someday the time and place will come for actual conversations. In the meantime, ‘bold’ to me will mean being with him, a source of love and peace and positivity in the face of all the anger and pain he has….’bold’ means listening to the suicidal lyrics of his heavy death metal music that he listens to during every waking hour, and daring to negate them by telling him that his life is worth something. ‘Bold’ can be as simple as love in the face of hate, peace in the face of chaos. I don’t have to preach; nor do I have to hide the fact that I’m keeping him in prayer or that all the good in me is really Jesus Christ. I don’t have to hide or push at all. I simply have to love. God is quite capable of the rest.
I ask you that this week, before you start your day, say a prayer that God’s love and peace will prevail today. That it would flow through you and touch anybody who’s in need of it on a deeper level. Maybe you can even make this a habit. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear about any similar stories you have, or even just what God is doing in your life. So write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless!!